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The Indigenous food sovereignty movement promotes access to healthy food, and helps to fight food insecurity, made worse by droughts, severe floods, and other adverse weather events, which are impacts of climate change.

A key goal of Indigenous food sovereignty is to reduce the dependency of Indigenous communities on processed foods that are created by the industrial food system. By bringing together small-scale food producers and farmers, and Indigenous people who fish and hunt traditionally, the Indigenous food sovereignty movement facilitates the world-wide exchange of diverse, thousands-of-years-old practices in seed saving; catching, growing, harvesting, and storing food; and raising livestock, just to name a few. According to the Indigenous Food Systems Network, Indigenous food sovereignty is grounded in four key principles:

  1. Food is sacred and sovereign, and should not be constrained by colonial laws and practices. Human beings need to learn how to appreciate their connection to the land, plants, and animals, which are also different sources of food.
  2. Indigenous food sovereignty is action-oriented and encourages the participation of individuals, families, and communities in culturally-based day-to-day harvesting activities and strategies that can be adapted for future generations.
  3. Indigenous self-determination and food sovereignty inspire Indigenous peoples to make their own decisions about: food choices, food sources, and how much food is grown and consumed.
  4. Policy reform is central to Indigenous food sovereignty and may involve reconciling colonial economies with the values of diverse Indigenous communities.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

It’s the time of year when people across Turtle Island are turning to their gardens for food and for enjoyment. Fresh food from the garden supports health and wellness which improves our resilience as human beings. Growing a resilient garden also supports Mother Earth as the climate changes.

A garden (or a person) is resilient when it’s able to bounce back after facing extreme conditions. By learning different resilient gardening techniques, we can help our gardens withstand extreme weather caused by climate change. Practices that make gardens more resilient include, minimizing digging and ploughing (often called tilling), avoiding artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides, and including native plants. Planting perennials, the kinds of plants that aren’t weeds, but that, like weeds, come back every year without much maintenance, also contribute to making gardens more resilient to climate change in every season.

Indigenous gardens can play a key role in promoting intergenerational cooperation and sharing Traditional Knowledge about food and the environment. For example the Winyan Toka Win Garden a program of the Cheyenne River Youth Project has met the needs of elders who want traditional foods, and Lakota youth who can learn to better reconnect with the land and with each other. These gardens help build resilient communities and serve as community spaces for hands-on learning. Gardens become outdoor classrooms and contribute to Indigenous land-based learning and Indigenous food sovereignty to fight climate change.

With global warming, the growing season across Turtle Island has become longer. Learning to grow a garden that can adapt to a wide variety of growing conditions is an important factor in adapting to global warming and climate change. So, maybe the next time you admire your Three Sisters Garden grow, or the purple-stemmed asters or another native wildflowers where you live, remember that these plants help build the resilience of all of us, and Mother Earth, to climate change.

 

By Leela Viswanathan